Rohit Verma stood at a crossroads as his tenure in Vietnam was coming to a close.
Verma had spent the last four years in Vietnam crafting the blueprint for a new university in collaboration with Cornell. Several other institutions had already extended job offers to Verma for dean or provost roles.
In the end, Verma made a deliberate choice: He was going to bring his expertise to South Carolina.
"I didn't want to go to any place which did not offer exciting opportunities. Also having taught at many different types of universities from small, private universities to state to very large, well-endowed private universities," Verma said. "I thought that a large state university will be a good place for me to go because it offers a very diverse range of programs, student body, and I feel state universities do an excellent job with the resources they have to educate a very large number of students."
In August, Verma formally joined USC as the new dean of the Darla Moore School of Business.
Verma said he envisions enhancing the business school with stronger programs, increased financial support, an expanded team and an improved brand proposition as a means to maintain and boost the school's successful reputation to match rapid growth.
"We grew too fast, actually. We grew from about 3,000 students to 6,000 students in less than 10 years. So when you grow too fast and this natural tendency is to just focus on your own work. So (the) first immediate objective is to bring the community together so we can have a shared sense of vision and aspiration," Verma said.
Originally from India, Verma came to the United States in 1989 as an engineering student before transitioning into business school. In the time since, he has worked across the globe, including as the founding provost and chief academic officer for VinUniversity in Hanoi, Vietnam. Additionally, Verma has served in leadership roles at Cornell University and as a professor at DePaul University and University of Utah.
In his new role, Verma's wide range of experience will be crucial to engaging colleagues and stakeholders, according to Bo Hart, the senior director of the Office of Alumni Engagement at the Darla Moore School of Business.
“He has a great personality, one that could get along with multiple external partners, not just in the Moore school, but get along with other deans and academic colleagues across USC," Hart said. "He gets the external piece. He gets the fundraising. He gets the networking with alumni ... The way he interacts with faculty, staff, students really impressed everybody."
Much of Verma's experience is directly in the classroom, and he said he maintains a strong commitment to teaching, even as an administrator, because teaching and research have guided each step of his career.
"I still try to find time to teach. I think when you ask anyone who had a faculty role why they join academia, they will most likely say it's because of teaching and research," Verma said. "I could have gone to industry, but I just loved the academic environment with always learning and being part of somebody's learning process."
Verma said he believes that students should be at the heart of academia and plans on engaging students in order to influence the school's trajectory because prioritizing students at the center of the school is key to remaining competitive in attracting students to USC.
"You come to university to think about about complex problem-solving, critical thinking, working in teams, leadership." Verma said. "These need to be developed beyond basic knowledge. That is why it's very important that we engage with students to know what we need to do to help those skills"
With USC's international business program ranked No. 1 nationally, third-year international business and operations and supply chain management student Tessa Yell said students are eager to learn from Verma and his international academic experience.
“I'm really excited. He has lots of experience in many different places. And I think with his international background and perspective, it'll be really beneficial for the international business department,” Yell said.
Using that experience, Verma said he understands that technological growth and adaptation are essential for the Darla Moore School of Business to succeed and build a global legacy.
"We need to build our brand and make it even stronger. I have discovered that we do many wonderful things here, our centers, our students, our faculty. And we try to communicate that to the rest of the world, but we can do a lot more," Verma said.